Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bend getting charged up, Tesla style

On the north edge of Fred Meyer's parking lot
From slumbering mill outpost to micro brew mecca to cutting edge techno-town, Bend has arrived.

Tesla recently added eight charging stations in Bend for its electric sedan.

No, they're not located next to the Nordstrom store as they are at Washington Square in Portland.

We don't even have a Nordstrom, much to the chagrin of west Bend residents.

No, the charging stations are on the north end of the Fred Meyer parking lot on Bend's southern end of town. Fred Meyer may be declasse to the typical Tesla owner, but hey, when you need a charge, it'll do.

I've seen a few Tesla Model S sedans here in the past year. Also, have seen quite a few of them on the mountain passes headed towards Bend.

The base model Tesla S starts at around $70,000, or about three times the cost of the local favorite, a Subaru.

You can also upgrade to the $108,000 version. The Model X SUV starts at around $80,000.

Not exactly chump change to most Central Oregonians.

Actually, it's only pocket money to the techies in Silicon Valley, Redmond, Wash., and Hillsboro, Ore.

And, it means that those areas have Bend in its sights.

Yes, sometime in the future, Tesla will have a more "affordable" Model 3 for sale at around $35,000. Judging by how delayed its other models have been, though, it'll be a few years before we see them on the road in Central Oregon.

Still, Bend's population continues to race ahead along with its property values.

All this growth, however, means that Bend is unaffordable to the working class. Rental rates are soaring. I know one couple who saw their monthly bill jump from $1,000 to $1,500 last summer and it's rising to $1,750 this summer.

Like other hot spots in the country, Bend is divided between rich and poor. The middle class here is vanishing quicker than in most areas of the nation.

That's the price of success.

But, isn't that Tesla cool.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Don the Con making America white and manly again

The Donald (Don the Con man) Trump easily won the Oregon primary against foes who had dropped out of the race.

Yes, he did get nearly 65 percent of the Republican vote, which means that more than 35 percent of GOPers here still detest him.

Hillary Clinton lost by 14 percentage points and still got more votes, by nearly 20,000, than Don the Con did.

No matter, he's the GOP's guy.

Come November, he won't be Oregon's guy, guaranteed.

Nor will "left-coasters," California or Washington, be in Don the Con's camp. Nor will any other traditional "blue" state across the land.

As has been the case this century, the presidential election comes down to three states: Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In fact a handful of counties in those states are the only battlegrounds left in this country. Pity the people in those states who have to endure the media and advertising onslaught.

If Hillary wins two of those three states, she'll be president by an overwhelming electoral college advantage.

But Trump will not go away so easily.

He believes he is the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan, who brought southern Democrats and other racists firmly into the Republican camp. Trump claims his campaign slogan is totally different than Reagan's, which was "Let's Make America Great Again." Trump's is more emphatic: "Make America Great Again."

Then and now, the inference is clear: Let's make America white again.

It worked in 1980, but there are far more people of color in America in 2016.

By playing the race and bigotry cards in the most brazen way yet, Trump easily dominated the Republican field. White supremacists actively support Don the Con. There's even a slogan out there: "Yes, We Klan."

Even though many Republicans are racists and bigots, they believe Don the Con is being too gauche about it.

Don the Con's next target: Women in general and Hillary in particular.

He has offended and will offend, in words and deeds, women everywhere.

Many Republican women are fine with that. They don't mind that Don the Con is on his third wife, with a fourth one not  out of the picture. They apparently don't care that he cheats on his wives.

Hey, he's rich. That's still a selling point to many women and men.

Don the Con will channel the Republican war on women they way he channeled the GOP's racist heart in the primaries. The GOP honchos may cringe at Don the Con's crudity, but they'll still funnel millions his way.

This war on women, though, is not something cooked up by Democrats in the last 10 years.

On the contrary, a lifelong Republican activist, Tanya Melich, coined the phrase in her 1996 book, "The Republican War Against Women: An Insider's Report from Behind the Lines."

Melich attended every Republican National Convention from 1952 through 1996, except in 1984. She left the Republican party in 1998 over its negative attitudes and policies toward women.

It's hard to see how offending minorities and women will win Don the Con the White House.

Then again, this is America. Anything is possible.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Oregon turning dark blue?

'Birdie' Sanders in Portland in March
This Tuesday could yield another victory for Bernie Sanders as party switchers favor the Democrats over the Republicans by almost a 3-to-1 margin.

Yes, of the 139,000 party switchers, more than 92,000 joined the Democratic ranks.

Now, it could be primary shenanigans at play with Republicans and others switching to Democrats to vote for Bernie over Hillary Clinton. Oregon's demographics, as white as the driven snow, favor Sanders. But, Hillary will win here in November if she's the nominee.

Or, there could be thousands of voters out there so appalled by Donald Trump's campaign that they're fleeing to the Democrats.

Either way, it does not bode well for Republicans to win a statewide race this November.

That's all well and good because Republicans have proven to be incapable of representing the interests of the majority of Oregonians.

Kate Brown, who took over when John Kitzhaber resigned in disgrace in early 2015, should win easily to finish out Kitzhaber's term. With Democratic majorities in the state House and Senate, she's had one of the most successful and consequential stints as governor in Oregon's history. From increasing the minimum wage to paid sick leave to free community college to motor-voter registration to gun safety reform, she's been phenomenal.

The Democratic race for secretary of state, the position that Brown had before becoming governor, is more wide open. Richard Devlin, Brad Avakian and Val Hoyle are all worthy of the office, but Avakian stands out for his call to audit corporations that win state contracts. As more and more government functions get out-sourced, this is critical. Great idea.

The only other issue on our ballot that matters is the usual begging by the 9-1-1 entity for more money. This time they say it's for the creation of a 9-1-1 district with a permanent tax rate. This means our bill will balloon from 36 cents per thousand to 42 cents per thousand of home valuation.

It's tiring to always have to vote on a basic service. If those who believe the failed gas tax was merely to fund retirement accounts of ex-city employees, the same argument can be made on the 9-1-1 issue.

While The Donald will easily win the Republican primary, he'll get trounced in November by whoever runs on the Democratic ticket. There's about 270,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in this state. Also, the nearly 500,000 non-affiliated voters aren't likely to break for Trump. He's too repulsive, even for many Oregon Republicans.

Oregon is a progressive state. Call it cobalt blue.

Thank god.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The angry Americans

Which one is the Trump supporter?
Yes, white American voters are angry.

On the right, poorly educated whites back the billionaire who expresses their anger at people of color.

On the left, the well-educated whites back the Democratic socialist who taps into the anger at Wall Street.

The source of the rage is simple: Our better-paying manufacturing jobs are being out-sourced and the other jobs are being taken by undocumented workers because white Americans no longer want those jobs at a pay rate that is difficult to live on.

Intel lays off thousands and is also trying to expand the visa program to bring in coders and other I.T. personnel from India and other countries.

Why? Well, they want to pay them far less than they pay American workers.

Once here, the Indian workers learn from their American counterparts and then return home with the jobs the Americans used to have.

Disney, Toys R Us and others have done this recently.

The stock market cheers such moves and so other publicly-traded companies have little choice but to follow along.

Amazingly, the unemployment rate is at historic lows. In fact, Oregon's jobless rate is at its lowest point, 4.5 percent, since tracking comparable data began in the 1970s.

All over Bend, you see reader boards begging for workers.

Of course, the jobs are low paying in retail, fast-food and the tourism businesses. McDonald's is even offering bonuses. It's also paying $10 an hour. Oregon's minimum wage is already $9.25 an hour, second only to Washington state at $9.47.

The argument that such a high minimum wage results in widespread job losses is completely refuted by the data in Oregon.

In fact, Oregon and Washington are stealing young workers from neighboring states. Legal marijuana and a more tolerant attitude likely play a part.

The 80 jobs recently lost in Warm Springs when the reservation's lumber mill closed will be absorbed by the burgeoning marijuana trade, according to tribal leaders.

Still, the high minimum wages in the Northwest are still less, when adjusted for inflation, than what was paid in the late 1960s. American workers have been losing ground ever since. It's worse now because of accelerated outsourcing.

The recent rush to get hourly pay to $15 an hour by 2022 will help, but it's too little and too late.

 GoBankingRates.com calculated that a worker would currently need to make nearly $29 an hour to live comfortably in the Portland area.

Adding insult to injury is the staggering disparity of incomes between the rank-and-file workers and the executives.  Here's an excerpt:
  • From 1978 to 2011, CEO compensation increased more than 725 percent, a rise substantially greater than stock market growth and the painfully slow 5.7 percent growth in worker compensation over the same period.

The CEO of Yahoo, who did nothing to improve the viability of the company, will get $55 million when she leaves it.

Yes, the deck is stacked against the common worker. There isn't much hope for the younger generation to afford a home in a desirable place or send a kid to college, even a public one.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump says he has the answer to appease the angry: Send 11.5 million undocumented workers home and build a wall. He will do nothing to stop outsourcing. He will likely expand it. Oh, as usual, cutting taxes will solve everything.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders say if we break up the banks and tax stock speculators we can make a dent in the income inequality chasm that hasn't been this bad since the French Revolution.

Sanders nails the central issues plaguing this country. The problem is that it will be impossible to do anything about our financial robber barons. They own the lawmakers, the judges and most people of influence.

The revolution that Trump and Sanders say we need won't be achieved at the ballot box.

And, a Republican-led Congress has little interest in doing anything for the incredibly shrinking middle class.

The only hope is our court system. That is why the Republicans won't fill Antonin Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court. And, if Hillary wins in November and Republicans control Congress, Scalia's seat could stay vacant for years.

And the anger will roil on.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Trumped, unfortunately

If he loses, Trump could always be in the next 'Batman' film
Just when it looked like Oregon on May 17 could make Donald Trump the Republican nominee for president, Indiana trumped us.

And, just because Ted Cruz lost badly to Trump on Tuesday, everyone expected him to name his cabinet today.

Afterall,  he picked Carly Fiorina as his running mate following a string of losses last week. Instead, he throws in the towel.

Finally, just when we thought we knew how to pronounce John Kasich's last name, he quits too.

How disappointing. The Republican clown car now has only one occupant.

But, oh, that Trump isn't just you're basic Bozo.

He brings a whole new level of absurdity to the political process.

He provoked giggles all over the country when he tried to tie Ted Cruz's dad to the JFK assassination. Hey, it was in the National Enquirer, Trump said.

Trump is legendary for his re-tweets of offensive material causing tweetstorms.

It's all so ludicrous that I'm actually warming to the remote possibility that Trump could win the presidency. He would be so unpredictable, ridiculous and crude that it would entertaining, in a perverse way.

Of course, he could be the first president that gets us into a war through twitter.

Or, he could "make America great again" by just declaring bankruptcy for the country. It worked numerous times for Trump before.

Trump could tire of his third wife while in office and pick up a fourth one from another eastern European country.

The big question now, though, is who will be his running mate.

Since he goes against the grain time and time again with apparent success, Trump should pick Vladimir Putin. They appear to have a bromance brewing. Yes, it's absurd, but Republicans seem to love Putin, too.

Trump is an embarrassment to many in the Republican party, but they voted for him and now they're stuck with him.

Let's hope the whole country isn't stuck with this fool.